Studio 666 is an unholy union of this rock ‘n roll horror lover’s favorite band and favorite genre. The critic whose first AOL screen name was “FooFan4Life15” gets to watch Dave Grohl and company star in a spooky tale like the ones he now professionally obsesses over. Movies aren’t made for one specific person, but there’s an 86% chance Studio 666 was produced for me, Matt Donato. Why stress these factors? Because while I had a blast with the Foo’s independently spirited tale of musical possession and crazypants gore, the film probably won’t work for everyone. Goofball rockstars created a silly, schlocky haunted thriller with their friends, and that’s the vibe Studio 666 brings. If you’re a Foo Fighters admirer looking for a horror-comedy, you define the demographic.
Screenwriters Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes embrace a story by Dave Grohl rooted in rituals, specterphiliacs and cursed compositions a la Deathgasm. The Foos are struggling to produce their 10th record, so Grohl demands a stimulating studio environment like when Led Zeppelin went to “that castle” with the “devil and wizards and dragons and shit.” Their label manager thought-bubbles the “perfect place” and sends them to an Encino estate where the band Dream Widow was slaughtered in 1993—which isn’t part of the sales pitch. The Foo Fighters arrive and get to work, but all’s still foggy for Grohl until he starts hearing voices and finds a cryptic occult book with reverence paid to Evil Dead. Cue bad vibes and dead bodies.
Grohl’s already played Beelzebub in Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, so satanic storytelling is in the musician’s blood. Buhler and Hughes flesh out the story’s structure to help us believe a possessed Dave Grohl can keep the other Fighters around until their instrumental parts are recorded, but the band’s identity is ever-present. Maybe a more apt title would be The Foo Fighters and Friends vs. The Super Scary Song because, between shredder cameos and bandmate razzing, that’s what it feels like. Think of an R-rated Scooby-Doo episode minus the talking dog and with industry commentary. Studio 666 is Grohl and the gang reenacting shots from The Burning to The Exorcist, giggling the whole way while wiping away fake blood.
Director BJ McDonnell brings his slasher experience from Hatchet III to this at-times gonzo turn, while his special effects teams trade realism for ludicrous dispatches that feel torn from ‘80s slaughterhouse flicks with lesser means. One particular bedroom dismemberment puts the double sexy-time kill from Friday the 13th Part II to shame, even if it’s a comical splatter display with two fake bodies. Computer graphics aren’t the most polished when summoning demons, and mutilated pizza-dude corpses might look the same at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, but the film’s sense of glee sustains. It’s not hiding these truths and hacks through bodies with vile enthusiasm.
Granted, the Foo Fighters being themselves on-screen can run thin if that’s not a pre-show draw. Actors like Will Forte, Whitney Cummings and Jenna Ortega provide steadier presences as interrupters and rival rockers, but the Foos do all the heavy performative lifting. Grohl’s charisma is undeniable, yet in-jokes aren’t always cleanly delivered (although shout-out to the adorably snacky Pat Smear): Oddball conversations about Chris Shiflett banging Rami Jaffee’s grandmother or stoked conflict once Grohl turns antagonist are tougher sells. For fans like me, the Foo Fighters get away with murder in terms of laxer performances, but the typical horror consumer without any connection may feel more lost or disinterested.
On a radder note, Grohl’s recorded an entire Dream Widow album that’ll release with Studio 666. Splendid news, since the Dream Widow thrash metal tracks heard as singles and in-movie soundtrack goodness kick all sorts of ass. When Grohl forces his Foo Fighters into another jam session, he loses himself to the devil’s forbidden riffs with an aggression that resurrects a very Metallica, “Kill ‘Em All” generation of harsher rockouts. When the Foo Fighters are doing what they do best, it’s hard not to be all smiles—even considering how cymbals are used to behead victims, and that cannibalism is on the menu.
Coming from a longtime Foo Fighters enthusiast with a love of horror cinema, Studio 666 hits all the right crunchy, face-melting notes. It might run its welcome a bit long and struggle with more juvenile gags, but it’s still a proper midnighter that’ll have you barking (in laughter) at the moon. The Foo Fighters enlist collaborators who help navigate their killer record idea through all the necessary madness and massacres, with a pro-ranch dressing stance more movies should take. Did I mention this experience is kookier than “Hocus Pocus” by Focus? The Foo Fighters made their horror movie, and boy am I glad it ain’t no pretender.
Director: BJ McDonnell
Writer: Jeff Behuler, Rebecca Hughes, Dave Grohl
Starring: Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Pat Smear, Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett, Rami Jaffee, Whitney Cummings, Leslie Grossman, Will Forte, Jenna Ortega, Jeff Garlin
Release Date: February 25, 2022
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.